OTAs offer first glimpse into Cowboys' running back plan

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys face one of the bigger questions in the NFL: How will they replace DeMarco Murray?

It has been asked only thousands of times since Murray and his NFL-high 1,845 rushing yards left via free agency for the Philadelphia Eagles after the Cowboys were unwilling to come close to the $21 million guaranteed he received from their NFC East rivals.

Time will tell if the Cowboys were right or wrong on Murray, but today offers up the first public display as to how the team hopes to replace him when the media get to watch the second of nine organized team activities at Valley Ranch.

What is clear is that the Cowboys will turn to a running-back-by-committee approach without Murray, who had a franchise-record 392 carries in 2014.

Joseph Randle received the first-team work, such as it is in late May, on Tuesday. He has received praise from ownership, coaches and teammates for a more serious approach to the offseason, which is a sign he understands the opportunity that is in front of him. Can he be an every-down back?

The Cowboys signed Darren McFadden in free agency to a modest deal that included just $200,000 guaranteed. He has the pedigree as a former first-round pick, but has seven years in Oakland sapped his energy? The Cowboys have touted Lance Dunbar's work the past couple of years, only to never truly integrate him into the offseason. Ryan Williams spent last season on the practice squad but received a $240,000 signing bonus in January as part of a “thank you” for not joining other teams last year.

The Cowboys did not make a bigger play in free agency than McFadden. They didn't address the position in the draft at all.

The Adrian Peterson rumors persist but that has been more myth than reality the entire offseason, like his potential retirement and walking away from millions. Could Peterson end up in Dallas? Sure, but it remains as improbable today as it was before the draft.

The Cowboys worked out Ben Tate, Felix Jones and Daniel Thomas a week ago but have passed on them for now. That Ray Rice and Chris Johnson were not among that group should tell you the chances of either becoming a Cowboy.

Will the Cowboys stop looking? Not likely. Randle, McFadden, Dunbar and Williams have not given the Cowboys a reason to stop looking.

The group's work in the three weeks of OTAs and the June 16-18 minicamp should not stop the potential search for Murray's replacement, either.

Judgments off pad-less practices in late May and the middle of June should be viewed warily but not ignored. There is a reason why coaches tape these workouts.

The Cowboys won't be able to definitively answer the Murray question this spring, but the OTAs at least start the process of putting a name to the face of the running game in 2015.